Energy. Environment. Economy.

As Shell Works To Stop Methane, Neighboring Farmer Worries About His Cows

Scott Detrow / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Shell flares off natural gas, in an effort to stop a methane migration problem in Tioga County

If you go looking for evidence of Shell’s methane migration problem in Tioga County, as StateImpact did today, you won’t be able to see the 30 foot geyser of water and natural gas.

First, the flow has been reduced to a few feet over the course of the last week.

Second, the company has blocked off access to the site.

What you can see, though, are the large, loud flares burning off gas at nearby pads. They’re part of an effort to reduce underground pressure and bring methane leaks under control. “We’re seeing that brings down — it depressurizes — the gas that could be contributing to migration in the immediate area,” said Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh.

(For more background on what’s happening in Tioga County, click here. For an interactive map of drilling sites in Tioga County, click here.)

For farmer Leo Shanlay, who lives a bit more than a mile from where the problems are occurring, evidence that something might be amiss came from his cows. Shanlay’s nine calves won’t drink any water from his drinking well. “Before, when I dumped water in, they drank it right away. Now they wait four or five hours before they drink it,” he said, standing in front of an idling tractor. The calves started losing interest in his well water on Tuesday. They’re happy to drink the water his uncle trucks in from another site, though.

Op de Weegh said Shell has taken water samples from Shanlay’s well. Initial results don’t show any methane. Shell expects more detailed analysis by Monday.

Shanlay lives just outside a voluntary evacuation zone. Shell has requested peo­ple who live within about a mile of the sus­pected well pad to evac­u­ate their homes. Shell and Tioga County officials say fewer than five people live in that area.

The depressurization efforts appear to be working. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Daniel Spadoni wrote in an email to StateImpact Pennsylvania that methane sightings have dropped to the point where the people who hunt on nearby private land are being allowed to return to their cabins.

Spadoni said DEP still doesn’t know what’s causing the methane leaks, though as StateImpact Pennsylvania reported earlier today, Shell and Tioga County officials suspect a decades-old abandoned gas well played a role in the problems.


  • DoryHippauf

    gee – according to Royal Dutch Shell the sky is pink

  • Julieann Wozniak

    Well, I dunno, could it be shoddy well construction? Cheap cement and substandard steel encasing that well? After all, it’s profit ahead of taxpayers in Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania!

  • Audrey Gozdiskowski

    Of course it is “an old abandoned well” causing the problem.  They never do take the blame!Always a co-inky-dink that all these problems have been occurring since the drilling began!Wonder how many problems we will see in the future when today’s wells become the “old abandoned wells”!

  • Theatregrove

    “Shell and Tioga County offi­cials say fewer than five peo­ple live in that area.” To those with money and for those being paid off, five lives are meaningless and dispensable. It’s only five lives so that makes the situation better? All hail the almighty dollar in this great country of ours!

  • Gudrun Quenzler Scott

    There are many horizontal hydrofracked wells near schools, hospitals, in urban centers such as Fort Worth Texas and there are no legal limits to siting these wells thanks to our incompetent and or corrupt legislators and a one mile evacuation could involve a lot of people. Also there are literally thousands of abandoned wells that have never been identified in NY – probably also Pa.  The EPA took careful note of this when they held hearings and their report is expected later this year or next year.

    Here is a panel of experts starting with John Quigley, Secretary of DCNR of Pa under Governor Randell speaking  in 2011.
    (DCNR stands for Department of Conservation of Natural Resources)

  • Gudrun Quenzler Scott

     There is no legislation in place to limit fracking which can be done next to schools, hospitals and any urban center such as in the city limits of  Fort Worth Texas.

    Carefully vote for legislators this fall-.

    • Chris Salmon

      Why should there be such legislation? Are there lots of old, abandoned, unmapped, improperly plugged wells in Ft. Worth? No. In PA? Oh heck, yes!! They go back to the early days, 150 years ago there.

  • Vera Scroggins

    This is what happens when we / US worship the “Almight Dollar” and now our Environment
    is at serious risk and at stake.  Even Shell can’t do it right !

  • 1b4Igo

    I have noticed a lot of negativity on this blog. But, i don’t see anyone complaining about using there computers made by petrolium products! Or, people turning down the “Almight Dollar” when approached by the gas companies to sign leases! People that have no knowledge about what is going on in the area should not be commenting. Bunch of people just jumping on a band wagon wanting to be tree huggers!

    • Appleblossom1

      I ‘Liked’ … BUT I want to say there is nothing wrong with being a “tree hugger”… Trees are the lungs of our ecosystem. I think the problem is more of people needing to feel involved in dramatic issues and could also be people looking to cash in on the event. Like I said above there has been an issue for decades in this state that probably half of the posters here would have laughed about up until now if you had tried to point it out to them. People too often don’t care until they can feel involved for whatever reason they feel they will *benefit* from being involved. Be it being able to get attention for having something newsworthy to talk about OR because they want money. They have not been tweaking out all along over the leaks that have been there long before this ‘incident’. And most of them probably also burn plastics in the trash because it is cheaper… so yeah think they have little to talk about when you stop and think about it, unless, of course they want to learn from the situation.

    • Kyle Simon

      You also don’t know what measures the people commenting DO take to limit their environmental impact.  Don’t make assumptions either way.

  • Appleblossom1

    Turning this into a “teachable moment” maybe everyone reading should wander on over to u tube and type in “Orphaned (or abandoned)Gas and Oil wells in Pa” and see what you come up with. There ought to have been such concern for the environment all along.  With a little education into the matter you will see why. There has been a far larger problem with those old wells leaking into streams, air, and groundwater all over the state for decades in everyone’s back yards and no one has been up in arms, or hysterical about that. There are not records for probably close to half of those old wells available and the Gov does not even know where many of them are. There are no companies to fix those abandoned wells unless the State Gov pays for it. If indeed there is one of those old wells involved here at least there is a pretty good chance that it will be fixed unlike all of those out there which have yet to be found that have been leaking for almost a hundred years that were capped with tree trunks and so forth by local settlers and no longer existing companies which have deteriorated. If Shell finds one they will fix the problem unlike some of the other companies which leave stuff like this and run. I care about the water too, but hysteria and rumors solve nothing. 

  • Protecting Our Waters

    Appleblossom, yes, the abandoned wells — plugged or unplugged or plugged by a tree trunk by an old-timer — are a huge problem. And just like so many environmental problems, it does take either a set of events, or a set of people, or both to raise the profile of that problem. I mean, people testified in Congress for 12 years about DDT and got nowhere, before Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring and suddenly people “got it.” But Carson, a scientist, was attacked for being “hysterical,” which was the chemical industry’s favorite word to use against her. She was dying of breast cancer at the time. The pesticide industry’s attack against her was not pretty.
         Often it takes even longer for serious concerns to be taken seriously. Medical textbooks had information about the poisoning of children’s blood and brains from lead, by 1920, but it took another half century before anything was done about that.      So, we should welcome, encourage and celebrate the work done by journalists who take the time and trouble to talk to rural people to find out what’s really going on. Nine calves refusing to drink the water: that’s significant. Three old-time hunters concerned about a unique swamp being destroyed by fracking wastewater: that’s significant. This is good reporting.      Let’s do everything we can to encourage MORE attention, and much more action, to address the thousands of abandoned old wells, and every other aspect of the many-headed hydra that is Marcellus Shale unconventional drilling. When serious people are addressing serious concerns seriously, it’s absurd to use a term like “hysteria” — that’s like calling the scientists who proved cigarette smoking does, hello, cause lung cancer, “negative” or “hysterical.” Data is data, and gas drilling is clearly causing rampant methane migration, elevated asthma rates, increased breast cancer in heavy gas drilling areas of Texas, significant numbers of animal deaths, and many hundreds of cases of water contamination, in the short-term; while the real cumulative risks escalate for future generations (climate, groundwater problems that are impossible to fix).      We are pushing for a moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling until, for starters, a cumulative impacts study is done in each of Pennsylvania’s three great watersheds and a Health Impact Assessment is done for the state. That’s not hysteria. That’s prevention. That’s a call for science. That’s common sense.

  • Appleblossom1

    In response to Protecting Our Waters:

    Let me first apologize for responding to this article and primarily the comments section on only one level. As a person who is very much into what you would probably recognize as “the Truth movement”, if you will, I should have been mindful to the fact that there are likely at least three different levels of demographic involvement visiting this page. Some of which are more likely to have been involved enough to have previously encountered something which is often termed by some as a “trigger” word; such as the word “hysteria”. While I do certainly ‘overstand’ ;) that certain terminology is at times used with that intention, I assure you that is not what my intention was in choosing to use that particular word.

    My intention was (and perhaps I ought to have been more clear) to address the particular form of “journalism” in which some partake in which requires the breaking of laws (trespass for one) with the intention of forcing more legislation to be written and implemented. Responsible journalism is a very much necessary element in the balancing of the interest of the people VS. the interest of corporations. There is no doubt about that. But the same people who will complain about laws keeping them from doing what they think they ought to be able to do, (sneaking onto private property that has been willingly leased out to a corporation by the land owners to take pictures of what they wish to put forth as proof of something they want to have stopped) want to have laws written and enforced to protect them from violation. This type of Hypocritical behavior does no service to any type of movement wishing to bring about change in this world because it is like the pot calling the kettle black. While I understand the frustration, there are reasons for the laws protecting those sites. Just like others would have reasons why they feel it is important to have laws written and implemented to protect what they view as important. Like it or not that is the truth. Not that I think everyone here would do this, I have seen also many instances where the people wishing to create “change” use the same kind of tactics they presume others are using in what they see as a “war on lies”, lies they believe are being perpetrated by corporate America. I don’t have time to write a book here, but suffice it to say there is more than enough dis-info and spin being put out by both sides… (sides in general in the larger picture, not any specific group. Not getting into that here.) I feel this happens because the average citizen feels they MUST use the same tactics in order to balance the scales against something they feel is much bigger than them. That is neither true, nor necessary. 

    You cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created the problem in the first place. Each individual has far more power to create the world they want to see than they realize. The problem is A.) they don’t realize it. B.) when they do realize it not enough of them realize it to put the hard work into doing something responsible about it. How many people that are all up in arms about this issue are using products made from petroleum to get their message out? Was that harvested in someone else’s back yard? Did other people loose their lives so that you all can you them? Did you care then? How many people here do you think care about chemtrails (geo engineering, etc) and air quality? Do you think any of them are out at the doorsteps of the companies that are spraying the population every day? Or do you think they laugh about it when people try to tell them? I am just asking because $ causes a lot of people to feign concern and outage. I wonder how many of them will continue being concerned about the environment and health issues when this particular situation has been resolved? Do they eat hot dogs knowing they cause cancer? Do they refuse to change their diets knowing it makes them unhealthy? Now I know there are some here who are definitely going to be 100% legitimate and whole heartedly well intentioned in their concerns as well as their efforts, but I am guessing that is not the case with all. That irritates me because it “muddies the waters” for those of us who see a need for making responsible decisions for the purposes of maintaining integrity, and see the absolute need for common sense and respectful communication if there is ever going to be a healthy balance in the way our society functions with relation to the planet. Those people are trying to bring logic and reason to both sides of many issues. Logic which leads me to…

    There is almost no verifiable information on this situation taking place with the Methane situation in Tioga County at this time. There are very few facts available. There is all sorts of speculation and very few facts. I have NO respect, personally, for BP or any of that particular (‘upper tier’ of the) lot at this point from the little bit of factual information I have about what happened out in the Gulf. But I do know that many of the people who were working out there were just regular people trying their families just like everyone else, and alienating those people is not going to help anyone. The decision makers… eh, I might have a few questions for them myself if I had the opportunity. But that said, from my own personal experience, which is all I have to go on, and is all any of us can really go on unless our fact findings are 100% verifiable to the fullest extent… I do feel that these people in the long run MAY be luckier than the rest with having this in their back yards because at least if it is something that can be fixed… Shell is a company that is most likely to fix it. The rest of the abandoned wells that have been leaking for almost a hundred years that almost no one has been complaining about… Those won’t likely see such a timely resolution if there can be one. One other thing. I KNOW I have heard myself many years back about Methane Migration taking place fairly local to that particular location (within 20 miles or less) LONG before there were any modern drilling and fracking operations taking place around the area. Like 15 years ago. So I do at times question where people’s complaints are really coming from. Fair whether fanatics are not helping responsible science. There is not yet any proof available to the public to link Shell to this issue over there either. It may look as if it is common sense that it is linked… But that is exactly my point… No one has the facts yet. And something that complex is likely to take some time to fully understand the nature of how it happened. Many people are demanding answers like overnight. You want a quick fix? Or do you want responsible work done without outside interference of the ambulance chasers??? Just sayin’ it might take focus to work on the “science” of the issue and I doubt the people trying to figure the situation out for everyone’s interest including their own have been uninterrupted by “hysterical” citizens in their effort to do so. 

    Yes we should remain interested and do what we can, but there is wisdom in knowing when we can do something and when it is appropriate to wait until we know more. And If I thought from my own personal experience that this was an irresponsible company that tends to act with total disregard for the community I would say so. But in light of the fact that I doubt most of you would like to go back to the days of living in tee pees and huts/cabins without deodorant, showers and computers and cars… We have to give these companies a chance to be responsible before we judge, and make decisions based upon only what we know. Because they are making money, yes, but at this time also providing you with services YOU PURCHASE. Unless you live in a cave. ;) And don’t even get me started on Electric cars either unless you have researched the Lithium in the batteries and where it comes from. Everything you want also has a cost. Unless you want nothing? And do those hunters you mentioned also watch Nascar? Shop at Wal-mart? Again just saying. Lets keep the hysterics and spin to minimum. I am still waiting to hear what exactly the names are of the “FIVE”? was it, yes I believe that is what the one video put forth in the intro… “Five” wells that Shell was flaring off in that area at that time. Because as far as my own fact finding would go, I have only been able to positively identify three. And that is what I mean. I have in no other place been able to verify there were more than three at any given time anywhere near that Migration issue. Maybe I am wrong, maybe the video producers are. But it makes me think of how Mr. “Sky is Pink” is removing comments from his pages that apparent opponents of his position are leaving on his pages for discussion purposes, and why he would feel the need to remove them. Question everything if you want to make a difference. Both sides of these issues are often funded by the same people. Cooperating with the real workers and having respect for them as human beings and having respectful conversations is going to be more beneficial in the long run to the cause of the Average citizen who wants a healthy safe clean world. Peace! ;)  

  • biomedical science

    It’s a common problem with fracking. Cows can die in minutes. 145 died from methane poisoning in their pasture in Texas. Media doesn’t want to alarm the public but with the amazing number of gas frack wells all over the nation, seeps and fracking chemicals have contaminated the entire continent. Our life expectancy has probably been impacted to the point, we probably shouldn’t worry too much about our retirement. Life is short. Live a little.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »